Cincinnati Reds draft profile: Right-handed pitcher Tanner Burns

OMAHA, NE - JUNE 26: (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - JUNE 26: (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images) /
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Tanner Burns draws some comparisons to current Reds starter Sonny Gray.

A player like Tanner Burns comes with some risk due to injury concern, but just a few years ago, there was potential for the right-hander to be selected in the first-round of the 2017 MLB Draft. Burns fell to the 37th round. Choosing not to sign, Burns honored his commitment to Auburn, taking over for former No. 1 pick Casey Mize. Could the Cincinnati Reds land Burns at No. 12?

The simple answer is yes, as many draft experts expect Burns to be on the board when the Reds make their first-round selection. According to MLB.com, Burns ranks as the No. 28 prospect available, but Keith Law of The Athletic puts the 21-year-old at No. 16.

So, why the disparity? It’s quite simple; durability concerns. Burns had shoulder tightness during his sophomore season. The right-hander missed a start and wasn’t nearly as affective when he returned from his injury. MLB.com also speak to a decline in Burns’ stuff as the season progresses. With only four starts in 2020, it’s hard to gauge if that would’ve happened in 2020.

Burns entered the 2020 season named to the Preseason All-SEC and Preseason All-America teams according to Baseball America. Burns pitched in just 22.1 innings with a 3-1 record, 32 punch outs and an ERA of 2.42. In 37 appearances over his college career, Burns owns a 2.86 ERA.

Burns has drawn comparisons to former Vanderbilt standout and current Cincinnati Reds pitcher Sonny Gray. Both are relatively small in stature, as Gray stand just 5’10”. Burns is 6’0″, but a large majority of pitchers nowadays are at least 6’2″ or taller. However, size didn’t affect Gray finishing first on the team in ERA last season while going to his second All-Star Game.

Perfect Game gave very high marks to Tanner Burns coming out of high school, saying that his mechanics and delivery are very simple. Having an arm that requires very little tweaking in terms of mechanics could allow Kyle Boddy, the Reds Minor League Director of Pitching Initiatives, to help Burns reach his full potential.

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Burns works his fastball in the mid-90s and has a plus-curveball that sits in the low-80s. Burns keeps the fastball down in the zone, which we all know is a huge plus. If Burns had no durability concerns, you’d likely be looking at a Top 10 pick. Might the Reds reach for a player like Burns, who has upside, or will they play it safe on draft day?